Pop­u­lar au­thor serves up sur­pris­ing thrills

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT - By J ill Cluf f

As a li­brar­ian, it may sur­prise you to know how many pop­u­lar au­thors I have ac­tu­ally never read.

Thus, I’m un­der­tak­ing a lit­tle project this year to read a pop­u­lar au­thor ev­ery month along with ev­ery­thing else I have been read­ing. The re­sults thus far have been mixed.

I could take or leave James Pat­ter­son, but it can’t be de­nied that his books are ac­tion packed and his pac­ing fre­net­i­cally ad­dict­ing. I have tried three dif­fer­ent Nora Roberts books and just couldn’t get into any of them. And don’t even get me started on Stephen King (too wordy, too creepy and way too much gory de­tail).

But this is all a mat­ter of opinion be­cause some of the au­thors I have read thus far I have re­ally en­joyed. One of those was Cather­ine Coul­ter, a long­time res­i­dent of the best­seller lists and a master of the FBI thriller. The book I read was “The Lost Key,” which was co-writ­ten by J.T. El­li­son, and is the sec­ond in­stall­ment in Coul­ter’s new­est se­ries.

“The Lost Key” is a maze of labyrinthine plot twists and mis­taken iden­ti­ties – it grabs hold of you from the first page and doesn’t let go. We are in­tro­duced to two part­ners, Nick Drum­mond, a freshlyap­pointed Bri­tish FBI agent look­ing to prove him­self, and Mike Caine (short for Mi­caela), a fiercely am­bi­tious woman in a man’s world.

As the story opens, the two wit­ness the bru­tal Wall Street stab­bing of a Mr. James Pearce. As he lays dy­ing in Agent Drum­mond’s hands, he mum­bles some­thing nearly in­de­ci­pher­able: “The key is in the lock.” And sud­denly, a seem­ingly or­di­nary mug­ging turns into a lay­ered con­spir­acy.

As the two agents dig deeper into the case, the de­tails prove elu­sive and they are left with more ques­tions than an­swers. Pearce’s two chil­dren sud­denly go miss­ing. And one of them – the son – turns out to be a fa­mous hacker.

Pearce’s very iden­tity comes into ques­tion as well: on the sur­face he ap­pears to be a well-to-do an­tique book­seller who keeps to him­self and caters to a niche clien­tele. But the two part­ners be­gin to see this was just a cover for an­other life – that of a spy – and that he had spent his life in search of a lost World War I U-boat that sup­pos­edly houses all of Kaiser Wil­helm’s gold.

Ul­ti­mately, “The Lost Key” is an ut­terly fas­ci­nat­ing book that weaves mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and World War I his­tory to­gether in a break­neck chase to the fin­ish. The writ­ing here is crisp and well­paced; you both like the char­ac­ters and feel like the au­thor doesn’t spend too much time talk­ing about them rather than mov­ing the story along. There is great chem­istry be­tween our two leads and their skills as agents are both be­liev­able and in­ter­est­ing to read about.

I ac­tu­ally lis­tened to the book in my car, which made it even more fun. I can eas­ily see why peo­ple love Coul­ter and turn to her for a re­li­able thriller or a great au­dio­book for com­mut­ing. I guess it goes to show that you can’t al­ways judge an au­thor by the amount of peo­ple who read them.

Jill Cluff is a some­times li­brar­ian who is mar­ried to one gi­ant and mom to two boys. She loves all things book- and food-re­lated – of­ten at the same time.

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